November 4, 2011



Rick Perry's Texas success story.

Texas trails most states, many countries in young adults with degrees

By Ralph K.M. Haurwitz
Updated: 4:40 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, 2011
Published: 8:23 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011
Texas trails most other states and many developed countries in the percentage of young adults with a college degree, and demographic changes suggest the underperformance will worsen as time goes on.
That was one of several higher education trends with worrisome economic consequences that business, education and legislative leaders examined at a conference Tuesday in Austin.
About 32 percent of Texans ages 25 to 34 have earned an associate's degree or higher, compared with 41 percent for the nation as a whole. Massachusetts ranks first among the states at about 54 percent, and South Korea led an international sampling at 63 percent.
Part of the problem is that too few students in Texas finish their college studies, said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, a national nonprofit group. An analysis by the group found that, of every 100 students entering higher education institutions learning in Texas, 79 enroll in community colleges and 21 in four-year schools. Seven of the community college students graduate within four years, and 13 of the students at four-year schools graduate within eight years.
"With completion numbers like these, Texas will not be able to compete economically with other states or with other countries," said Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business.
The challenge is especially daunting for members of minority groups, who historically lag behind their white counterparts in educational achievement. Whereas 31 percent of full-time white students seeking a bachelor's degree in Texas graduate in four years, only 15 percent of Hispanics and 12 percent of African Americans do so, according to Complete College America.
Woody Hunt, chairman of the Texas Business Leadership Council and a former University of Texas System regent, warned that the overall
degree-earning rate will decline if the state doesn't do a better job of educating minorities, especially Hispanics.
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes said the challenge is to improve graduation rates even as funding for higher education, including financial aid, declines amid surging enrollment.
Part of the solution, Paredes and business leaders said, is to hinge at least a portion of base funding for public colleges and universities to graduation rates, course completions and other student outcomes. Base funding is now apportioned according to enrollment.
The outcomes-based approach is intended to create a powerful incentive for school officials to improve academic advising, tutoring, mentoring and other student support. Hammond said he wants officials to "wake up in the middle of the night" worried whether students will graduate.
This model, adopted by more than 20 other states, didn't gain much traction with the Texas Legislature this year, although lawmakers approved a measure intending to reconsider it in 2013.
Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System, said he would support outcomes-based funding if it wouldn't harm the state's flagships, UT-Austin and Texas A&M University.
Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, who leads the Higher Education Committee, said negotiation, compromise and open debate will be essential to win legislative approval of such funding.;
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